The Benefits of Massage Therapy
Massage therapy probably brings to mind an image of a luxurious spa with warm towels, pleasant fragrances, and a professional masseuse. But the benefits of massage therapy go beyond simple relaxation—it can have positive effects on many aspects of your health and well-being.
Read about the many massage benefits you may gain from different forms of massage, including shiatsu massage, vibration massage, and handheld percussive massage.
Overview of Massage Therapy
Your work and personal life may leave you feeling stressed and exhausted at times. You might find yourself dealing with muscle tension and soreness after exercise or strenuous physical activity.
According to a survey by the American Massage Therapy Association, 75 percent of individuals reported scheduling massage therapy for two primary reasons:
- Health or wellness
- Stress relief
While you used to have to book an appointment at a spa to enjoy the benefits of massage therapy, portable devices now exist that enable you to benefit from self-massages. You can give yourself a soothing massage at home, at the gym, or on the go with portable massagers.
You also have numerous types of massage to choose from, and several of them can be easily performed at home with simple equipment.
Types of Massage Therapy
Around the world, you can find many different types of massage. These are five of the most popular massage types:
- Swedish massage: Swedish massage is a common form of massage therapy that uses gentle to moderate pressure to help relieve tension and promote relaxation.
- Shiatsu massage: A Shiatsu massage is done by hand. It uses finger pressure at different pressure points around the body to help relieve tension.
- Deep-tissue massage: Deep-tissue massages focus on penetrating to the deeper layers of soft tissue in and around your muscles.
- Percussive massage: Typically done with a handheld massage gun, a percussive massage focuses on specific areas of your muscles with rapid impacts from a specially shaped head.
- Vibration massage: Another form of self-massage, vibration massage therapy typically uses devices of various shapes to help relieve tension with an automatic session.
Benefits of Massage Therapy
The primary purpose of massage therapy is to promote relaxation, but it may also offer a host of other benefits for your mental and physical health.
Learn about some soothing massage benefits that can promote relaxation and may offer relief from muscle tension.
Relieves Muscle Tension
The purpose of massage therapy is to apply pressure to tight muscle tissue to help loosen it up. By relieving muscle tension, it aims to reduce some of the pain it can cause.
One study found that vibration massage therapy may help relax muscles and increase the flow of oxygen through muscle tissue. Vibration massagers are also great ways to promote whole body relaxation.
Handheld massage guns are designed to target specific muscle groups for deep-tissue massages. You can use these devices to penetrate more deeply into soft muscle tissue than you can with your fingers and help relieve stubborn knots.
All these self-massage techniques are available at home with little equipment, making them extremely accessible while being beneficial for muscle tension relief.
Can Help Living Well with Back Pain
More than one-fourth of U.S. adults experience back pain, according to the CDC. Research shows that massage therapy may help living well with back pain. If you’re dealing with ongoing back pain management, you may find some relief in regular massages.
Another study with over 400 participants concluded that massage therapy may be helpful in relieving back pain. Alongside rest and other back pain remedies, massage could be a useful form of relief and relaxation.
Promotes Overall Relaxation
Massage therapy, whether done by a professional or yourself, is a great way to calm your mind and relax your muscles. Massage can provide relief from tension and stress as you focus on the soothing feeling of pressure on your skin and muscles.
Therapeutic massage may also promote better focus by helping you relax when you find your mind racing and feel overwhelmed. When you find yourself struggling to focus on a task or activity, consider stepping away for a short massage therapy session.
An important part of destressing is being able to focus on something other than the stress. The time you spend focusing on your muscles during a massage therapy session may help you better manage the stress of work.
An at-home foot massage is another option for recharging after a long day. When your feet are sore and tired, sit in a comfortable chair and enjoy a warming foot massage to soothe and relax your soles. Some footbaths contain massaging features that can add to the sense of relaxation they deliver.
If you have trouble falling asleep because there are too many thoughts racing through your mind, a quiet, soothing massage may help you relax and prepare yourself for bed.
Helps Reduce Stress and Its Effects
It’s easy to get caught up in an unhealthy routine or find yourself overwhelmed by work and responsibilities. Massage therapy is one way to force yourself to take a break and enjoy the relaxing pressure on your skin and muscles.
A soothing massage may help some people manage the effects of stress, which can be both mental and physical.
You can also make at-home massages a part of your regular relaxation routine by using a handheld massager or foot massager. These devices put you in control of the massage, so you can enjoy exactly the level of pressure and vibration you like.
Consider using an aromatherapy diffuser during your massage session to add the soothing fragrances of essential oils and further promote relaxation. By calming your mind and focusing on the physical sensations of massage therapy, you can help yourself destress.
Time off isn’t as valuable as it could be if you can’t fully relax. If enjoying relaxing massage therapy at home helps you avoid thinking about stressful projects (either past or future), you’ll find yourself feeling more recharged when it’s time to return to your responsibilities.
May Relieve Tension Headaches and Migraines
Along with muscle tightness, stress is a common factor that may contribute to tension headaches. These headaches often result in a steady, aching pain that may last for a few minutes or a few hours. By helping manage stress and its related symptoms, massage therapy may also help living well with tension headaches.
Migraines are another common ailment that don’t have one clear source. Over 15 percent of U.S. adults reported suffering from migraines in one survey. Migraines can make it difficult to focus and enjoy activities.
The relaxing effects of massage therapy may also help manage migraines and their associated pain when combined with other migraine treatments and a healthy lifestyle.
May Increase Range of Motion and Blood Flow
After exercising, your muscles might feel tired, sore, or swollen. A massage is a great way to wind down after a strenuous activity like weightlifting.
By aiming to loosen tight muscles, a massage therapy session may also help improve your range of motion, especially when you’re feeling limited by inflammation and muscle tightness after exercise.
A study published in the journal Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation found that 30-minute Swedish massage sessions can prevent a decrease in blood flow after strenuous exercise.
More research found that massage therapy resulted in higher muscle blood volume and helped increase blood flow in specific areas. This evidence points to massage therapy as an option that may help you manage soreness and tightness following exercise.
Depending on the type of exercise you were performing and the severity of the soreness you’re feeling, you can opt for a gentle vibration massage or a deep-penetrating percussive massage to relieve tightness.
Simply Feels Good
For many people, massage therapy simply feels good. There’s a reason that luxurious spas feature massage sessions: they help people feel refreshed and recharged. The combination of relaxing pressure, comfortable posture, and quiet focus time that you might experience during a massage all help contribute to a more relaxed state of mind.
In combination with other relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and aromatherapy, massage benefits may leave you feeling refreshed and better able to manage stress. At work or during travel, using a vibration massaging chair pad or pillow could help relieve tension while you’re sitting for long periods.
Additionally, heated foot massagers and massaging foot baths provide luxurious relief for the heels and soles of your feet. A warm bath may help promote your body’s relaxation response.
To further relax yourself, choose your favorite scented essential oil and place a few drops in an aromatherapy diffuser while you enjoy a massage.
Relieving Stress and Tension with Massage Therapy
Massage benefits range from minor forms of relief to significant health improvements. The benefits of massage therapy can help you feel more relaxed, recharged, and ready to face new challenges and experiences.
To start experiencing the potential benefits of massage therapy, explore the different types of handheld massagers and home massage devices to find a solution that’s right for you.
Medical Disclaimer: This content is provided for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Consumer Views & Use of Massage Therapy, American Massage Therapy Association: https://www.amtamassage.org/publications/consumer-views-use-of-massage-therapy/
Cerciello, S., Rossi, S., Visonà, E., Corona, K., & Oliva, F. (2016). Clinical applications of vibration therapy in orthopaedic practice. Muscles, ligaments and tendons journal, 6(1), 147–156. https://doi.org/10.11138/mltj/2016.6.1.147
QuickStats: Percentage of Adults Aged ≥18 Years Who Had Lower Back Pain in the Past 3 Months, by Sex and Age Group — National Health Interview Survey, United States, 2018. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;68:1196. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm685152a5
Systematic Review: Noninvasive Treatments for Low Back Pain. Content last reviewed December 2019. Effective Health Care Program, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. https://effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/products/back-pain-treatment/research
Cherkin, D. C., Sherman, K. J., Kahn, J., Wellman, R., Cook, A. J., Johnson, E., Erro, J., Delaney, K., & Deyo, R. A. (2011). A comparison of the effects of 2 types of massage and usual care on chronic low back pain: a randomized, controlled trial. Annals of internal medicine, 155(1), 1–9. https://doi.org/10.7326/0003-4819-155-1-201107050-00002
Tension Headaches, Johns Hopkins Medicine: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/headache/tension-headaches
Burch, R., Rizzoli, P., & Loder, E. (2018). The Prevalence and Impact of Migraine and Severe Headache in the United States: Figures and Trends From Government Health Studies. Headache, 58(4), 496–505. https://doi.org/10.1111/head.13281
Happe, S., Peikert, A., Siegert, R., & Evers, S. (2016). The efficacy of lymphatic drainage and traditional massage in the prophylaxis of migraine: a randomized, controlled parallel group study. Neurological sciences: official journal of the Italian Neurological Society and of the Italian Society of Clinical Neurophysiology, 37(10), 1627–1632. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10072-016-2645-3
Massage Therapy Restores Peripheral Vascular Function After Exertion, Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: https://www.archives-pmr.org/article/S0003-9993%2814%2900130-0/fulltext#relatedArticles
Mori, H., Ohsawa, H., Tanaka, T. H., Taniwaki, E., Leisman, G., & Nishijo, K. (2004). Effect of massage on blood flow and muscle fatigue following isometric lumbar exercise. Medical science monitor: international medical journal of experimental and clinical research, 10(5), CR173–CR178. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15114265/